Paul Vargas


France beat Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan by a margin of Namibia. But the number of burgers I’ve eaten in the past ten years somehow beat the number of movies I’ve seen in a theater, lifetime, by a margin of my high school graduating class plus the number of colleagues I have at work. Burgers over France? I don’t have to tell you: this is a travesty.

So even though the threshold for an official response is Citi Field, we’re aiming for the L.A. Coliseum on this. And give what you can: laps at Daytona; the Kármán Line. Even just the number of pets I’ve had could help make the difference over Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan.

Remember: the best way to fight is the way we tell you to. I mean, clearly, if you can walk and chew gum at the same time then of course you should do it, but chewing gum is better right now. We all have to be chewing gum, together. If we’re all chewing gum, we can make it so that Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan and burgers never even happened. If we all chew gum now, by National Mentoring Month, we could all be watching movies in France.

Imagine what it would mean if we were all united. We could once and for all vanquish the rhetoric of wet socks and airport bars that don’t open before nine. We could dismiss for good the roaches and heights and open water dominating our lives. All the back and shoulder and rib in the winter would have been worth the-time-a-friend-took-three-Klonopin-and-tried-to fuck-his-cousin of this cycle.

This is the most important thing you’ll do. Like the drive said: those who would give up an essential bell to buy a little temporary dance deserve neither bells nor dances. Now is not the time to stop thinking about whether I should go to that ugly Christmas sweater party or if I even want to spend up to seventy dollars on an ugly Christmas sweater, which is the root cause of a half-decent Beatles song.

I can’t even find a good one. I ran a search for maybe a second, and I got literally millions of refugees. All kinds. Syrian refugees; Tunisian refugees. Yemeni refugees. I don’t want to show up wearing the same refugee as somebody else, but I also don’t want to spend the rest of my life searching for the perfect refugee. You know?

Doesn’t even start ‘til after nine. After a whole invasion of Iraq and subsequent expansion of the War on Terror to include the extrajudicial assassination of human beings by drone, just about the last fucking thing I want to do is not-bathe in lead-contaminated water, put on a refugee, and stand around listening to pointless conversations wiretapped with only the rubber stamp of a secret court proceeding.

My brother picked up a pretty sweet refugee, though. Said he saved the number of children who can be shot to death at an elementary school four years ago only to become a footnote in an encyclopedia of brutality for the nation at large. I’m just as shocked as you are.

Anyway, thank you for your support. We’ll be in touch.

What Left
The Past is
what left.
Not a sepia past or a

horns-and-bass past, or a
horse-and-buggy past, but
the constant Past.

The only Past.
Yesterday is always gone
and if you think that’s simple

then you’re a fucking prick.
Yesterday is always simply gone,
and no proof exists of Tomorrow.

Of it, there is only Evidence:
the sun rose Yesterday, and we live,
presently, so the sun may well rise

We treat the Past
like a lover cheating

after we cheated,
its trespasses never so fucking clear
as when the Past trespasses against us.

All the rules bent
and theories elided;
the loyalties assumed;

the arrogance
that just because one has something
that means one may keep something.

The Past dies daily.
The Past dies for those
shot by a cop or drowned by

dark waters. It leaves daily
for those shoved to the dirt or
dropped off the rolls.

It leaves
daily for anyone
who’d count those poor souls

as relations,
for everyone to whom
such terrors are due,

for anyone who fears the new,
and the fucking rest of us, too.
That is the only Truth.

And yet,
the Truth is full of ants.
They march within it; consume what

makes it, then spill like water
pouring from its cracks turned holes,
turned chasms.

Do ants scurry? Fucking fine.
Once they rush forth from the Truth
like the tide rushing in, they scurry

the fuck away.
This is key. This is vital.
One might wake up every morning

and try to truly
understand that
Yesterday is always gone:

the Past dies daily,
leaving only Evidence.
And the Truth is full

of fucking ants.

What Was Never Here

Party Guest: “Oh, but really biting satire is always better than physical force.”
Isaac Davis: “No, physical force is always better with Nazis.”

­Manhattan (1979), by Woody Allen*

Fucking evidence is never fucking proof.
Until you see the fucking sun rise, you
cannot prove the sun will fuc
king rise tomorrow.

Frankly, that truth has been my fucking rock,
unleashed through maddening years of the fucking
chiseling that is the crush of injustice every fuc
king day.

Forget proof. There’s no fucking proof,
unless you’re a fucking mathematician, in which
case there’s proof all day long, that ends in fuc
king paradox.

Forget justice. There is no fucking justice,
under the weight of so fucking many
clawing for what so few can ever fuc
king have.

Forget Earth. There is no fucking Earth:
umbilical fucking fealty paid to the Sun,
circling it until the end of its fuc
king life.

Forge some faith in fucking imagination, for its
uses go beyond fantasies of a fucking elf
coming to our rescue on the back of a fuc
king dragon.

Forge some fucking love for fundamental
uncertainty, and find some fucking
comfort in the fact that we are fuc
king here.

For now and always, our fucking existence is an
unqualified fucking miracle, that requires
constant respect and attention, lest it one day fuc
king stop.

For my sake and yours, drop the fucking
understatement and kill the fucking
craven jokes and let’s focus on the fuc
king terror.

For despite all the fucking bitching
uninhibited by that fucking lack of imagination,
come January that jackass will be the fuc
king President.

Fucking help a stranger like we f
ucking love ourselves, not just because we fu
cking must but ‘cause we fuc
king can.

*alleged rapist who’s still making movies, despite investigations, 
   the publishing of a heartrending letter by his accuser, and years 
   of jokes/petitions/think pieces.

What We Never Wanted

(with gratitude to James Luther Dickinson)

This did not “happen” to us.
This is something we made.
Pray we learn that same distrust.

We’ve guzzled fame like our guts wouldn’t bust.
It warbled and cheeped like a penny arcade.
This did not “happen” to us.

Duty is borne like a hernia truss.
Grant us a break from “slaying” and “shade.”
Pray we learn that same distrust.

Magazine marches and newspaper lust.
Beers slapped on tabs that are easily paid.
This did not “happen” to us.

Flash flies a jet while work takes the bus.
Glory snorts concert and satire parade.
Pray we learn that same distrust.

The wages of fame are ashes and rust.
Duty is plain, dull, and quietly paid.
This did not “happen” to us.
Pray we learn that same distrust.

What Remains

All that ever lasts is Memory.
With it,
from the detritus

of the rest—
the hazes and pangs
from our rust and rot,

those phases of Yesterday;
the dust of Evidence of
the regular death of the Past;

the waste of Truth—
springs the glory of all humanity
upon which our survival hangs.

Memory brings us home to fall
in love and sends us out
to fall from it.

Memory breathes,
and breeds contempt
and seeds desire

for more Memory. Each of us
is reborn over seven years, then 
   over again;

I will start my fifth life soon, 
   with the memories of a boy long 
   dead. Them I completely own:

the worst I’ve done; the best I 
   am: I remember it. And more: I 
   have it, as it has me. Every day

gone is me, and the hope for 
   days to come are me, too,
as much as they are you.

I don’t need to rise. I’m here 
   already! As are you, and you, 
   and you—you especially, you

interminably, you magnificently 
   and cravenly—you because I 
   remember you, you lushly and

proud and loudly and precious
   and luscious and profound.
We are here already,

and we’ve been here before,
and because we may yet be
here again, we cannot forget

we are already involved.
The terms of resistance
are presented us daily.

We have others who’ll imagine 
   with us; who’ll love and fight 
   with us; who’ll dance under dim

lights with us and work in quiet 
   rooms; we have others to push 
   with us to fix what uncertainty

breaks and make what i
   imagination demands. We have 
   that dogged persistence and

riotous pacing; we know how to 
   show reverence and respect 
   for those  in pain. We have alms;

we give alms. We recall our 
   duty. We’ve just been
assholes about it.

Nine days in ten we bury that 
   duty. We can’t bear reminders
of our mortality.

But we’ll always have to do this.
On a gray Tuesday in March
if there’ll be one; on a bright

Friday in June if it comes.
Rain; sleet; hail; snow.
Heat; breeze; chill; damp.

We chase Fascist jackbooters; 
   Communist murderers. Loathe 
   Democrat grifters;

Republican looters. They’re as 
   guilty of obstructing progress as 
   we are of assuming it.

Who’s the bastard this time? Is 
   it Donald Trump? Very well, 
   then. It’s Donald Trump.

I fear no man
too cheap for his suit.
I fear no men

duped by a wall.
I pity an idiot
who vomits a screed

and calls it smart;
I pity the art
of a flimsy deal.

I don’t wish a man harm
but to his ego. I want
a man gone but more

than Evidence suggests
he could ever consider,
I want us healed,

and moving. I want our 
   Memories long, and vibrant;
I want us looking over our

shoulder not in fear of what 
   might come but with respect for
what always does.

This is as much
a gauntlet laid as a
warning. Remember:

Newton found the Truth, too.

What goes up always comes 
   the fuck down.

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